My last ‘rant’, about the High Court ruling banning
prayers at council meetings, attracted criticism for being wishy-washy. The piece suggested that while I approve of
the ruling I don’t much care for the zealotry of the National Secular Society,
which rejoiced at the decision. I also
mentioned that I didn’t have strong feelings about retaining the monarchy or
the established church, of which she is supreme ruler.
Well, I suppose I must plead guilty as charged.
But while I see no conflict between approving the
elimination of religion from public institutions and distaste for the zealotry
of organisations like the NSS, perhaps I should try to correct the impression
of equivocation with a selection of my unequivocal views of religion, none of
them startlingly original.
My principal stance on religion is that, in the popular
idiom, I simply don’t get it.
Christianity in particular – and perhaps because it’s
the only one in which I’ve ever had instruction – strikes me as too fantastical
for words. The entire New Testament
story of virgin birth, resurrection, and all those miracles in between, seems
to me nothing more than a string of fairy tales, as incredible and whimsical as
anything written by the Brothers Grimm or Lewis Carroll. And when it comes to the conflict between
Creationism and Evolution I’m firmly in the latter camp. How anyone can ignore rational scientific
interpretation, while seriously subscribing to the barmy notion that God (I’ll
concede the capital G) put the whole universe together in six working days is
Moreover, my view is that it’s dangerously
propagandistic to teach religion in schools other than as a necessary adjunct
to historical events, and wrong for the government to fund faith schools
devoted to proselytizing such nonsense.
And yes, I realize that they are often the best schools.
As for the other main religions, with which I’m
admittedly not altogether familiar, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism seem
to be competing for the title of Nuttiest Belief System.
It’s the hysteria of religionists, like Christina
Odone in today’s Daily Telegraph –
she’s calling for Christians to fight back – that drive people into the
tiresome ardency of groups like the NSS, and its sister, the British Humanist
It’s not that I disagree with most of what the NSS is
saying. I just find myself not liking
the people they pick to do the saying on their behalf. They tend to be the kind of practitioners who
make the cure sound worse than the disease.
But if I have to make a choice, I will, and declare
that it’s not them so much as the religious apostles who leave me thanking God
I’m an atheist.
Perhaps I’ll join the NSS after all.
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